Rights, wrongs and drones: remote warfare, ethics and the challenge of just war reasoning

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In June 2013 the UK Supreme Court delivered a judgement that applied the European Convention on Human Rights to British combat operations which undermined long-standing assumptions about the status of combatants in a war zone. While, conventionally, law is deemed to follow on from ethics, the invocation of individual rights in this legal case prompts the revisiting of recent just war debate over the role of individual rights when making normative judgements about the morality of war and ethical conduct therein. The way in which individual rights discourses are deployed in the philosophical underpinning of just war theory has a marked impact on how the ethical status of combatants and their actions can be assessed. The use of the Reaper by the Royal Air Force on remote operations in the Afghanistan theatre adds a further layer of complexity to those ethical considerations. Consequently, this article will explore the nexus of remote warfare, just war reasoning and individual rights, highlighting the contradictions, opportunities and potential implications that arise when making ethical judgements in the domain of war in the twenty-first century
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-49
JournalAir and Space Power Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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